Our oceans are being plundered
The global fishing fleet is 2-3 times larger than what the oceans can sustainably support.
In other words, people are taking far more fish out of the ocean than can be replaced by those remaining.
As a result:
- 53% of the world’s fisheries are fully exploited, and 32% are overexploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion1
- Most of the top ten marine fisheries, accounting for about 30% of all capture fisheries production, are fully exploited or overexploited1
- As many as 90% of all the ocean’s large fish have been fished out2
- Several important commercial fish populations have declined to the point where their survival is threatened
- Unless the current situation improves, stocks of all species currently fished for food are predicted to collapse by 20483
It's not just the fish we eat that are affected.
Each year, billions of unwanted fish and other animals - like dolphins, marine turtles, seabirds, sharks, and corals - die due to inefficient, illegal, and destructive fishing practices.
Why is this happening?Overfishing is largely due to:
- Poor fisheries management
- Pirate fishers that don’t respect fishing laws or agreements
- Massive bycatch of juvenile fish and other marine species
- Subsidies that keep too many boats on the water
- Unfair Fisheries Partnership Agreements that allow foreign fleets to overfish in the waters of developing countries
- Destructive fishing practices
From the coast to the deep sea
Some newly fished populations, such as monkfish, Patagonian toothfish, blue ling, and orange roughy, have already collapsed in some areas. There is insufficient data on other populations to determine what level of fishing is sustainable.
At present most deep-water species are likely to be over-exploited - and as many as 40% of the world’s fishing grounds are now in waters deeper than 200m.
Painful impactsThe impacts of declining fish catches are being painfully felt by many coastal fishing communities around the world.
Newfoundland in Canada is an early example. For centuries the cod stocks of the Grand Banks seemed inexhaustible. But in 1992 the cod fishery collapsed - and some 40,000 people lost their jobs overnight, including 10,000 fishermen.
Nearly 20 years later, the cod have still not recovered. Science also indicates that the ecosystem has substantially changed, meaning that the cod may never make a comeback.
Some populations have been fished to commercial extinction in as little as four years.
Orange roughy congregate around seamounts - underwater mountains often found on the High Seas. WWF and many others are calling for urgent and strong measures, including fishing bans, to be adopted and enforced at the United Nations level in order to protect these areas from fishing activities.
- Buy sustainable seafood. By purchasing MSC-certified seafood products, consumers, retailers, and traders are helping to encourage and reward responsible fisheries. Without the MSC label, your seafood may well stem from illegally fished or overfished sources. Take a look at our seafood guides today!
- Donate to WWF to help support our fisheries and marine conservation work
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1 FAO (2010) State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) - SOFIA 2010. FAO Fisheries Department
2 Myers, R.A., and Worm, B. (2003) Rapid worldwide depletion of predatory fish communities. Nature, 423: 280-283
3 Worm, B. et al (2006) Impacts of biodiversity loss on ocean ecosystem services. Science, 314: 787